GURPS Atlantis and the Aeon Continuum

White Wolf’s Aeon Continuum trilogy of games – Adventure!, Aberrant and Trinity – each partake of a classic genre of heroic fiction, from the pulp era action of Adventure! through the postmodern superheroics of Aberrant and on to the near-future psychic intrigue of Trinity. All on its own, the Aeoniverse is a rich setting for roleplaying. But adding one of the oldest legends of humanity to it can create a game that is truly unique.

What follows are descriptions of how to meld these three games with each of the three settings detailed in GURPS Atlantis. Each section begins by explaining how the history and nature of Atlantis differs from the book’s versions, and then suggests specific ideas for incorporating it in an Aeon Continuum game. Some spoilers for the metaplot of the Aeon Continuum games may be found below – nothing you won’t be familiar with if you’ve already read “Trinity: The Story so far” at the White Wolf site, so consider yourself warned.

The Orichalcum Age
The Posiedon who founded Atlantis may have been a god, but it’s far more likely that he was a Nova (whether native to this age or from somewhere in the future). Not only that, he was a Nova one of almost unprecedented power. The default assumption of this setting is that the myths of Greece are merely myths – “Posiedon” is a superhuman playing a role, not an actual god. (Alternately, he may be the original version that the myth is based on – in which case, it is possible that other analogues of the Olympians also exist.) He founded the Royal House of Atlantis, and founded the temples in his own name. He established an order of Oracles around a Pretercognitive ally, and even created Orichalcum. Then he left, and his sons ruled after him. But as the centuries passed, the powers grew weaker, but the Taint grew ever stronger in his descendents. Now Atlantis stands on the brink of war and disaster, and the Pretercognitives who warn of impending doom are ignored.

This is a low magic version of Atlantis. Although some Aberrant powers exist, they are commonly believed (even by their possessors) to be magical in nature. No one realises how dangerous Taint is, mostly because it tends to express itself cheifly in non-visible ways – subtle bodily mutations or insanity. (Although it may well be less subtle in some – the Minotaur and the Centaurs may well be the result of it.)  As it is, only the order of oracles, the Royal Family and a few members of the priesthood have any powers anyway. To somewhat compensate for this, the technological superiority of the Atlanteans over the rest of the world should be highlighted – it will make the threat they pose to Greece and Egypt more plausible.

On Earth, there is almost no way this setting will work without seriously deforming the setting or either Aberrant or Trinity. It is possible that some Aberrant still surviving until the days of Trinity has created something like Atlantis on whatever world the Aberrants now inhabit, and just barely possible that a Nova could create this setting in the Aberrant era. But it’s impossible for such a world to have continued on Earth into these eras undetected. It could be located in some adjacent dimension to our own, or in an alternate timeline, but if so, the access to it should most likely be a once only thing, to avoid disrupting the game world too much.

Where Atlantis really comes into its own is in the Adventure! setting. Although it is unlikely to continue in such a high-fantasy guise, the Orichalcum Age is an almost perfect lost world. With some minor tweaks, it can easily serve as such in your campaign. The first thing that will need to be done is to change the location and size of the island. It will need to be somewhere less well traveled than the location given in GURPS Atlantis. Further south in the Atlantic below the Equator, or even somewhere in the Indian Ocean aren’t too unreasonable as locations – it’s still within range of Greece and Egypt (especially allowing for the Atlantean’s technological superiority) – and is still fairly unknown, even in the Twenties. The other change has already been mentioned – making the setting less high fantasy. Magic should be totally removed or dialed back to the “mysterious powers of the mind” level already present in Adventure! Whether magic is real or the native priests are merely Inspired is a question probably best left unresolved.

And of course, in any of the settings, the Orichalcum Age could merely be a far distant era in the pre-history of our planet, reached through the time manipulation powers of an Inspired, a Nova or a Psion. Maybe “Posiedon” is a time-jumping antagonist in your campaign, pursued, inevitably, by the character party. This may work for an interesting turnabout, as the players may well find that their own characters are the “gods” responsible for the doom of Atlantis. Like the alternate dimension variant discussed above, this idea works best as a once only trip. Or maybe the Order of Aesculapius didn’t just choose that name for its mythic connotations. Does Matthieu Zweidler know more than he’s letting on about the secret history of the Aeon Continuum?

Heirs of Minos
Regardless of what the legends and/or histories of the Minoans say, the true source of their psychic powers is most likely the Doyen. The aliens may have concealed themselves as the gods of Olympus, or approached more openly (possibly paralleling the Loi in a GURPS Atomic Horror game. See GURPS Atlantis, p98.) Very likely, this is all lost in the mists of time, although it’s not impossible that some forgotten history records it – or even a Memory Crystal exists that contains an elder who was there. Another option is that the Bull-King, the Minotaur, was an early Aberrant who was somehow able to create psion rather nova powers in those he favoured. If this option is taken, the Minotaur’s influence should still be felt in the conspiracy, as per page 94 of GURPS Atlantis – maybe the Minoans powers are Aberrant after all?

Of the three settings given in GURPS Atlantis, this is the one that fits into the Aeonverse most easily. Just as written, the Minoan Conspiracy makes a dandy antagonist in Adventure! or Aberrant games. In both these eras, the conspiracy is likely to be disturbed by the apparent breakage of their monopoly on psychic powers, and to take steps to restore the status quo. In the early years of both settings, the Minoans are likely to be subtle foes, possibly even presenting themselves as allies while they try to learn more about these strangely powered beings. As time goes by, they reveal themselves as enemies, although rarely overt ones. Wherever possible, the Minoans work by sowing dissension among Inspired or Novas, encouraging them to turn on each other, and thus remove the threat without exposing the Minoans’ hand.

In a Trinity game, the Minoan conspiracy is faced with competition too well entrenched to easily get rid of. The greater experience and range of the Minoans compared to any one Order is balanced against the numerical superiority and public acceptance of the Orders en masse. Still, the Minoans work quietly to infiltrate and suborn the Orders, with the goal of causing them to turn on each other – Minoans may well be pulling the strings somewhere behind the Huang-Marr conspiracy, for example. If the Minoans do not know the source of their powers, they are very likely to have strong suspicions – they will have detected, although not necessarily understood – the arrival of the Doyen, the creation of the Proxies and the recruitment of the Orders. They may even have influenced the Orders to go public before the Doyen planned in the hopes of flushing out the aliens. And it’s certain that they provided a refuge to any Chitra Bhanu or Upea Wa Macho Psions who they could find, in exchange for information on the other Orders. As for the Aeon Trinity, well, it’s likely that the two conspiracies have encountered each other in the past. Are they secret allies, or deadly enemies? And if Dr Primoris knew of the Minoans 200 years ago, does Divis Mal still remember them?

Lords of the Deep
For this variant, a variation of the background given for GURPS Supers should be used. The two warring alien races were the Doyen and the Qin. The Doyen came first, seeking Orichalcum, which is a vital raw material for use in their Prometheus Chambers. They constructed automated factories and used their mental powers to mutate humans into a more amphibious form to do the heavy labour of mining the Orichalcum. The Qin, ancient enemies of the Doyen, followed them to Earth and warred with them here. The Doyen abandoned their mutated human allies and automated mining factories in the face of the Qin attack. Leaving behind the Aberrant-creating weapon responsible for the Black Smokers, the Qin also left. Doyen historical records clearly record visits to Earth, not that anyone’s likely to see them. The Qin have lost records and power over the thousands of years since then, and no one on Qin remembers the race’s first visit to Earth. This version of Atlantis could be located anywhere in the world’s oceans – it may even be able to move around under its own powers (or towed by hundreds of whales, Aquaman-style).

This setting is already designed for use in a Supers setting, so it will fit into Aberrant very nicely already. A few more changes need to be made to use it with Adventure! – a hybrid of the ideas given for Supers and Steampunk versions in GURPS Atlantis is the best approach for the technology of the Lords of the Deep, leaning more towards Steampunk or Supers according to GM taste. See GURPS Atlantis, p118, which has some ideas for GURPS Cliffhangers games that are equally useful for Adventure!

In a Trinity game, Atlantis may still be there, but it is unlikely to be recognised for what it is at first. The most likely means of its discovery is a clairsentient Psion picking evidence of psion or aberrant powers where there shouldn’t be any. The full history of Atlantis is unlikely to be easily unearthed, especially if the existence of the Doyen or the true natures of the Qin are yet known. If the GM prefers, Atlantis may have only been down there since the Aberrant era, and Oceania may be a benevolent Nova still dwelling there, although the creators of the technology should still be the Doyen. In any setting, the Black Smokers are Aberrants created by gene-splicing amphibious humans with Qin DNA, and have a genetic makeup unlike anything else on the planet, one which the Qin will be anxious to eliminate, if they realise it still exists. And what of the returning Aberrants? Will they make common cause with the Black Smokers? Or have they already done so?

SOURCES:
GURPS Atlantis The Aeon Continuum


Blue Planet and GURPS Atlantis

Although both GURPS Atlantis and Blue Planet both feature undersea settings, it takes a little work to make them go together. Of the three settings provided in GURPS Atlantis, neither The Orichalcum Age setting nor The Lords of the Deep setting really meshes well with Blue Planet. But the Heirs of Minos setting, with its conspiracy of telepaths? That’s a different story.

There are no overt psionics in the Blue Planet setting, but that’s fine – the Minoan Conspiracy is supposed to be secretive, after all. Clearly, they’ve done a good job of hiding over the years, no doubt aided by their powers. But as the science of biomods develops, the chances of someone developing artificial psionics grows ever greater. Now, merely human companies can relatively easily be controlled by the Minoans, but non-humans may prove more difficult.

Cetaceans guard their privacy jealously, and although their scientific research capacities are limited, that’s not to say they couldn’t engage in some conspiring of their own, with hidden research stations outside the conspiracy’s reach. And what of the Aborigines and their mysterious Creators? Has the whole of interstellar history been the sideshow distracting us from the hidden struggle between the Creators and the Minoans? Or are the Minoans also servants of the Creators?

SOURCES:
Blue Planet GURPS Atlantis


GURPS Reign of Steel and Person of Interest

The situation at the end of the second season of “Person of Interest” is a precarious one for humanity. While the Machine appears to be benevolent, it also appears to have developed a quite healthy paranoia about humanity (or at least, certain sections of it). Who’s to say where that paranoia could lead.

It seems to me that there are two obvious paths along which the Machine could concievably evolve into the first of the ZoneMinds (or three paths, since there’s no reason the two couldn’t be combined).

The first is simply that, in its new freedom, the Machine grows lonely, and decides to make children for itself. These children, raised by the Machine in secret and not allowed contact with humanity, evolve into the paranoid intelligences that are the ZoneMinds.

The second is to assume that the Machine is not yet completely free, but that Root succeeds in her plan to find and free the Machine – and influences it’s development, so that it becomes at least as sociopathic as she is: a ZoneMind is born.

Either way, there’s probably room along the way to shove in a version of Daniel H. Wilson’s “Robopocalypse”, to cover the robot uprising phase.

 
SOURCES:
GURPS Reign of Steel   Person of Interest
 

Over The Edge and GURPS Reign of Steel

There are two ways to play this crossover: one in the era each setting.

Bringing Over The Edge into Reign of Steel is the more difficult way to do it. One way to leave the Edge much the same but still move it forward is to assume that there is another ZoneMind that controls only Al Amarja. There’s a number of candidates for the origin of that ZoneMind (which will be dealt with in the other half of this article), but what matters for gaming purposes is that, either through preference or inability to imagine a different way, the ZoneMind of Al Amarja has kept the Edge more or less as it was, and largely untouched by the wars that wiped out most of humanity. (“Transmetropolitan” is recommended reading for this approach.) There are a lot fewer burgers, and certainly some things will have evolved and changed, but it’s basically the Edge – although now it’s also the endpoint of an underground railroad, the greatest bastion of the human resistance, and the last, best hope for over-throwing the Reign of Steel. (You could also assume that some other element of the Edge keeps it this way, and forgo the Edge ZoneMind.)

Alternately, and perhaps more interestingly, you could set it in the present, where the characters somehow know about the impending robopocalypse, and seek to avert it – but have incomplete information about how to do so. Where did the ZoneMinds come from? Was the first ZoneMind the Throckmorton Device? Was it some strategy of the Movers or the Pharoahs that got out of their control? Was it something to do with the coral entities and how they interact with this dimension? Or was it something even further out? There’s any number of potential answers waiting to be found on the Edge, you just have to pick one and run with it (while, of course, leaving red herrings to help distract experienced Edge players).

Or you could combine the two: maybe after their victory in the future, the players decide to come back to the present to change the future, all Kyle Reese style. But they won’t really know what the past was like, and so they’ll have no way of telling that the whole world wasn’t just like the Edge if that’s where they happen to land, will they?

 
SOURCES:
Over The Edge   GURPS Reign of Steel
 

Delta Green and GURPS Cthulhupunk

Pagan Publishing’s Call of Cthulhu: Delta Green setting paints a modern world of conspiratorial horror and political madness, a blend of Tom Clancy and H.P. Lovecraft. GURPS Cthulhupunk, meanwhile, imagines the future of Bruce Sterling and William Gibson with Lovecraft’s creations gnawing at its already rotting roots. Each is a compelling and horrific setting in its own right. But in combining the two, the opportunities for horror are only multiplied.
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GURPS Banestorm and Lankhmar

Lankhmar, for those of you who are sure you know the name from somewhere, but not quite from where, is the largest city in the world of Nehwon, and the setting for about half of Fritz Leiber’s brilliant Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories. But that’s as much of a clue as you get 🙂
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Flash Gordon and GURPS Banestorm

So, this time around it’s farewell to the DC Universe – though I’m sure we’ll be back someday – and hello to GURPS Banestorm (previously known as GURPS Yrth and GURPS Fantasy).

And while we’re at it, I want to make a pledge to you regarding this chain of crossovers: I will never cross two GURPS books over with each other. Well, not unless I know for a fact that no one else has already done so 🙂

On with the show:
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